The importance of European racing trips for Juniors and U23 riders


Justin Mauch charges up a climb at the 2013 U23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Photo: Casey B. Gibson
Justin Mauch charges up a climb at the 2013 U23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Photo: Casey B. Gibson

The junior and U23 European racing trips are the key to American rider development. Even though U.S.-based racing is excellent competition with a lot of quality races and riders, going to Europe is more than learning to ride. It is about overall development as riders and as people. Young riders will learn how to be professional riders step by step instead of being thrown into the deep end as older riders.

In order to race effectively, a rider needs to learn to take baby steps as a junior, progressing slowly in difficulty and distance, as well as time spent away from home. It takes a special rider to just go to Europe to race and live full time and not be snagged by the normal pitfalls that can hold a rider back from reaching their potential — pitfalls like homesickness, physical sickness, loneliness and depression. These are normal, and every American rider fights these obstacles if they choose to race at the highest level.

In addition, again recognizing that America has great races, not many European professional teams know American racing. That makes it difficult for those teams to judge if a rider has the skills to move to the next level. The only way for American riders to show a European team they can compete and are worth the investment is to go and race in front of them and assure those teams they are an investment on every level that will be based on sound business decisions.

USA Cycling has created programs that assume all the costs to take riders to Europe; costs that can reach $30,000 per rider per year. They have the infrastructure. They have the contacts and they have the 15-year track record of competing on the European continent. How many American pro or amateur teams can say they invest that kind of money in a single rider for such an extended period of time?

Considering the cost for an American rider to travel to even a medium-sized regional race, the cost to participate in the USA Cycling National Development Program is significantly less — for some that cost is zero for races that are bigger and better at every level.

If a rider earns his or her way into the 15-16 juniors program and progresses all the way through the U23 program, then that rider will have almost 10 years of racing on the same roads and races that the biggest European pros do. That is huge and levels the playing field significantly. That can easily close the gap from making it to not making it.

So get on the phone and get on the email and get on your bike and fight your way into these programs. These are the path to the pros — the one true path. For more information on USA Cycling’s National Development Program, visit

Michael Sayers is the team director for USA Cycling’s U23 Men’s Development Program. This blog was originally posted on the Team Specialized Racing website.

This Article Updated May 1, 2013 @ 04:04 PM For more information contact: